Frequently asked questions

Here you will find answers to the most common questions which we are asked about the EPIC study.

Do you need any more volunteers?

No, the recruitment process for EPIC-Oxford is completed, so we do not need any more participants. Follow-up questionnaires have been sent out to people who completed an original recruitment questionnaire approximately 5, 10 and 15 years later. The last follow-up questionnaire was sent out in Autumn of 2010.

Can I withdraw from the study?

Yes, you are free to withdraw from EPIC-Oxford or the Oxford Vegetarian Study (OVS) at any time. Please let us know in writing to:

EPIC-Oxford/Oxford Vegetarian Study
Cancer Epidemiology Unit
Nuffield Department of Population Health
Richard Doll Building
Roosevelt Drive
Oxford OX3 7LF
United Kingdom

There are three options if you wish to leave the study, and it is helpful if you can let us know which one you prefer and which study you wish to withdraw from eg. EPIC or OVS or both:

No further contact: we will no longer contact you, but you give us permission to keep and continue to use information (and any blood samples) you have already provided, and to continue to obtain and use information from your medical records to follow your health, as before, including the sharing of identifiable data including your name with NHS Digital to obtain data from your medical records.

No further contact or access to your health records: we will not contact you again and we will not collect any more information through your health records; but you give us permission to keep and use the information (and any samples) already provided.

Complete withdrawal (no further use of data): in addition to no longer contacting you or obtaining information through medical records, we will stop new use of the information and of samples already provided (your information may be included in anonymised datasets already being analysed and it may not be possible to remove your data from these, but we will ensure that your information is not used in future).

Is your sample representative of the general population?

No, the strategy for establishing the EPIC-Oxford cohort was to recruit people with a wide range of diets by targeting vegetarians as well as the general UK population. 50% of our sample have a meat-free diet. This is extremely valuable, because it is the largest study of vegetarians in the world with linkage to comprehensive health records and will provide extensive information on the long-term health of vegetarians.

Do you use animals in your research?

No, the EPIC study provides an ideal opportunity for research on humans. Furthermore the Oxford component of EPIC includes 27,000 participants who do not eat meat, of which 24,987 are vegetarian and 2,162 are vegan. This is the largest detailed study of vegetarians in the world and will provide extensive information on the long-term health of people who do not eat meat.

Will my name and address be passed on to any other organisations?

No, the information you provide on your diet, lifestyle and health is known only to the research group involved in the EPIC study and will be used only for medical research. Your name and address are used by the study investigators, in order to contact you personally. In addition, identifiable data including your name is supplied by the study investigators to NHS Digital to enable us to obtain data from your medical records. All data is handled and held under appropriate secure conditions, and is used anonymously for all analyses. EPIC is registered under the Data Protection Act and has received ethics approval from the relevant authorities.

Can you give me any individual results?

No, data are analysed anonymously, so unfortunately we are unable to give feedback on an individual basis. The analyses we conduct are designed to explore the associations with the health of groups of people, but would not be expected to be of much relevance to individual participants.

I am finding it difficult to record my diet on the questionnaire. What should I do?

The questionnaire is designed to produce estimates of the intakes of major nutrients. We ask that you try to estimate average responses to the questions, based on a representative period in your present life. If you find it difficult to record certain aspects of your diet, health or lifestyle, the inclusion of additional notes is a useful source of information.

Do I need to fill in a new form if I have accidentally used ticks instead of crosses when completing the questionnaire?

No, please send the questionnaire as it is. We request that you use crosses, rather than ticks, because experience has shown that a tick has a tendency to stray outside the intended box, whereas a cross tends to pinpoint the response more accurately.

Why do you request weight in the follow-up questionnaire, but not height?

Weight will be looked at in conjunction with height. We already have a record of your height, from the original recruitment questionnaire.

Why is there a question on the follow-up questionnaire asking about shift work?

There is a suggestion that shift work or night work may affect breast cancer risk and perhaps other diseases, so these questions are designed to examine patterns of shift work in relation to future disease risk.

Since I initially participated in EPIC, my diet has changed dramatically. Can you still use my follow-up form?

Yes, the change in your eating habits will not invalidate your contribution to the study. The third follow-up questionnaire asks detailed questions about your diet and any changes will be recorded.

I plan to emigrate. Will I still be included in the EPIC study?

If you do plan to live abroad, please let us know so that we can update our records and ensure that no further correspondence is sent to your old address. If you plan to return to the UK in the future, and are still willing to participate in the EPIC study, we would be grateful if you would inform us of your new UK address on your return.

What does the future hold for EPIC?

In 2015 EPIC-Oxford was awarded a new grant by the Medical Research Council titled “Health of Vegetarians”. This research will be a major focus of our work over the next five years, and will include analyses of the relationships of vegetarian and vegan diets with the risk for heart disease, strokes, bone fractures, arthritis and various disorders of the gastro-intestinal tract. We will also continue our work on diet and cancer risk, which is supported by Cancer Research UK.

What if I move address?

Please let us know your change of address so that we can update our records. You can contact us by email queries@epic-oxford.org or by telephone on 01865 289600.

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